By Daniel Pulliam
December 8, 2006
A request for fiscal 2008 funds to establish five regional offices was one of several budget increases sought by the General Services Administration's inspector general but denied by the agency's chief, according to an internal GSA document obtained by Government Executive.
The pre-decisional budget document shows that while the IG proposed an increase of $9.3 million in appropriations for fiscal 2008, the administrator recommended a boost of $3.5 million.
The document supports claims by officials in the inspector general office that GSA Administrator Lurita Doan has attempted to scale back their proposed operations. Critics say this undermines the independence of the agency's investigative arm.
Doan has defended her actions, saying that the IG's office is resisting "common budget discipline."
Included in the $5.8 million difference between the IG's proposed fiscal 2008 budget and the one Doan supported is $2.5 million for the proposed regional offices in Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, New Orleans and Miami. The expansion would have involved the hiring of 10 full-time employees.
Officials from the IG argued that because they do not have investigative staff in those geographic areas, the office "must divert its resources" from a growing caseload in Washington, D.C., to conduct criminal investigations there.
IG officials estimated that with the 10 new special agents, they would be able to initiate 50 to 60 new cases per year, obtain 20 to 25 additional criminal indictments and 20 to 25 additional criminal convictions, and collect an additional $5 million to $10 million in fines, restitutions and investigative recoveries.
GSA spokeswoman Jennifer Millikin confirmed the authenticity of the document and said that because it is a pre-decisional budget document, the agency cannot comment on it.
The budget proposal is a few months old, according to sources. It must go through the Office of Management and Budget approval process before it becomes part of the Bush administration's fiscal 2008 budget request, which will be released early next year.
Earlier this week, members of Congress expressed concern about Doan's plans for the IG's office and asked that no further action be taken to limit the investigators' efforts until a detailed analysis is conducted.
The internal budget document, which shows both the IG office's original request and agency officials' edits, contains several potentially telling revisions. For instance, it shows that the phrase "under the general supervision of the administrator" was added after the office described itself as "an independent unit."
In the section describing the role of the IG, significant edits were made. The following is how the IG office wrote the section:
The OIG's mission provides a unique ability to objectively evaluate GSA's operations and assist GSA in incorporating the results of those evaluations into the agency decision and policymaking processes. We will focus our efforts on helping GSA bring about positive change in the performance, accountability and integrity of agency programs and operations, which will ultimately provide enhanced benefits to the taxpayers and an increase in the public trust.
Edits made by the administrator's office resulted in the following:
The OIG's mission provides a unique ability to independently evaluate GSA's operations which may in turn influence the agency decision and policymaking processes when appropriate. We will focus our efforts on helping GSA meet its charter as the premier provider of acquisition and real property services in the federal government.Other significant edits show up later in the document. Here is the IG's proposal under the budget summary section:
In fiscal 2008, the OIG will continue to provide audit and investigative services across the broad spectrum of GSA's activities. We will continue to commit substantial audit resources to program evaluations of GSA's major programs, reviews of GSA's major information systems and related security issues, financial statement and accountability reviews, attestation reviews of GSA contractual activities and statutorily required reviews. We will focus our investigative efforts on detecting and preventing fraudulent activity in GSA's procurement, property disposal and leasing activities, and identifying program vulnerabilities.
The revised document states the following:
In fiscal 2008, the OIG will continue to provide audit and investigative services across the broad spectrum of GSA's activities. We will continue to commit audit resources to promoting the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of GSA's major programs, systems and financial and accountability processes. We will focus our investigative efforts on GSA's procurement, property disposal and leasing activities.
The budget proposal also shows that the administrator zeroed out reimbursements to the IG for scrutinizing the prices offered by vendors with multiple award schedules contracts under the Federal Acquisition Service, GSA's major procurement division. In fiscal 2007, the IG was expected to receive $5 million, but that was reduced to $2.5 million. In fiscal 2008, no money is budgeted.
As a result of the decision to stop paying the IG to do the pre-award audits, 14 full-time positions were eliminated for fiscal 2007, according to the document. By fiscal 2008, FAS will have the capacity to complete all pre-award audits, the document states.
During the past two years, IG pre-award scrutiny has saved the agency $1.6 billion in monetary avoidances, the document states. Doan has said small businesses will take over the work.
The IG also lost $350,000 in proposed reimbursement funding for auditing GSA's Fleet Services charge card program in both fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2008, the document indicates.
By Daniel Pulliam
December 8, 2006